Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Infernal Clock Submission Call: CalenDark, The Infernal Almanac

The Devil has claimed the face and hands of time but he also makes his presence felt day in, day out. He takes the days, the months, the seasons as they change. He follows the year according to his own dark calendar, his CalenDark. This, then, is the theme of our next anthology, to deliver dark tales for dark days. The days which we have chosen, and which we invite you to submit for, are:

(Twelfth Night/Lord of Misrule - Christina Dalcher)
Imbolc/St Brigid’s Day/Candlemas
(Blessing of the Throats - Stephanie Ellis)
St. Valentine’s Day
April Fool’s Day
Ostara/Eostre/Vernal Equinox
Walpurgis Night
Beltane/May Day
Midsummer’s Day/St John’s Day/Summer Solstice
Lammas Day/Freyfest
Mabon/Autumnal Equinox
Punky Night
Samhain/Halloween
All Soul’s Day/Day of the Dead
Yule/Winter Solstice
(New Year’s Eve - David Shakes)

These days are widely recognised around the world although some may be known by different names, please feel free to use the name traditionally associated with the day you have chosen.

Note: those in brackets will be included but have already been assigned.

Submission Guidelines:
Stories should be in the region of 5000 words. Manuscripts should be submitted in double-spaced, Times-Roman 12pt, contain your contact details on the first page (name, address, email) and generally following the layout as described here.

Content: whilst this is indeed a horror anthology, we do not accept gratuitous sex or violence and definitely no child abuse.

No reprints allowed. Stories must be original and previously unpublished.

You may send more than one story, however only one story per author will be selected.

Send your completed manuscript to: theinfernalclock at gmail dot com. In the subject line, please put: SUBMISSION: CalenDark, name of story, surname

Deadline: September 30th

Intended Publication Date: November

Payment:
 As a fledgling operation we are currently unable to offer payment although this is something we hope to address as The Infernal Clock grows; however,  all authors will receive a copy of the ebook and retain all rights to their stories.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Winner!

Here we are at last. The hourglass is empty and it is time to reveal the winner of our inaugural Flash Fiction Competition. Many thanks once again to all those who entered, we both thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories and Shakes admitted to it being a really close call. As mentioned in the original blogpost for this competition, the winner receives a print copy of The Infernal Clock (we will be in touch to arrange its delivery) and consideration for a place in our next anthology. So who is this lucky person?

Let's wait just a moment longer and read Shakes's comments:

What a great opening with little flourishes and touches that really make the writing sing - the alliteration in the name of the park, the momentum of the journey as we're pulled in to the story alongside our narrator with that small caveat hanging on the end of the paragraph: '...like it or not.'

It's the narrator's (and therefore our writer's) eye for detail that marked this story out in my first readings and subsequent selections. So much is told in such a small word limit and that is the mark of great flash fiction and very short stories.

We get setting, character and back-story all in the first third of the tale. As the narrator continues we start to question his reliability although he is quick to admit his own shortcomings as a younger man.
There are some great phrases at play - I loved 'crap-ton' and the stomach churning 'wrongly asymmetrical'.

I can't say much more without spoiling the story. I wish I could write this well. Read it and you'll know why it won. It stayed with me a long time. A very long time. There's gravity here and it pulls you in deep...

Brilliant.


And the name of our Winner and the author of The Barker is ...

... Christina Dalcher. Congratulations, Christina, a thoroughly deserved win.

Enjoy her story.


The Barker

I stride through the gates of Palisades Park, past the hootenanny thundering its dance beat, past the girls lined up at the fortune teller’s booth, and into the heart of the action. There’s gravity here; it pulls you in deep, like it or not.

Over at the Helter Skelter slide, Joey stops his routine and points a finger in my direction, crooking it, calling me over. He’s so young, like teenage young.

The barker and me, we go back a while, all the way to short pants and tugging Mary Malone’s red pigtails in third-grade social studies. Year after that, we tried to be blood brothers, but Joey’s always been kind of sensitive—second he saw the bubble of red on my thumb, he passed out. I told some of the other kids about Joey going all sweaty and paste-colored. He didn’t mind too much; said he’d get even one day and slugged my shoulder. That’s the way it is with best friends.

Joey put up with a crap-ton of my antics over the years. Like the time I raided his dad’s liquor cabinet and used the bottles to make Molotov cocktails in his backyard—what an infernal mess that was. Or that one day I asked his little sister out on a date. “Psych!” I said when she agreed. “April Fools!”
Okay. Maybe I was a bit of a shit.

Katie eventually grew out of her buck teeth and braces. I took her to prom and out to the diner afterward, tried to get her to smoke a little weed with me, but that didn’t work. She always wanted to go Palisades Park and slide down the Helter Skelter, the very one Joey barks at now, yelling his spiel, getting customers to fork over their dough for one short ride down and around. So I took her.

“It’s more fun if you’re high,” I said. What I meant was, it’s only fun if you’re high. The Helter Skelter had to be the lamest ride ever. Unexciting, over too soon. Maybe that’s why they tore it down along with the rest of Palisades Park back when the peanut farmer president reigned.

Joey’s standing at his post. He points at me, says he’ll give me a free go if I want. Neither one of us looks at the scarred earth below the slide. If we did, we might see Katie, limp as a kewpie doll, head tilted in an impossible angle. Wrongly asymmetrical, like the Helter Skelter she tried to ride standing up.

I’d told her not to pull so deep on the joint. Joey hands me a paper ticket, the kind with a notch on each side. Admit One, it says. An invitation. His fingernails, gray and cold, graze my hand.

I climb.

The slide is way longer than I remember. It goes around and down, down and around. And it never stops.

It gets hotter, but it never, ever stops.


Bio

Christina Dalcher is a theoretical linguist living in the American South. Recognitions include Bath Flash Award’s Short List, nominations for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions, and second place in Bartleby Snopes 2016 Dialogue-Only Contest. Laura Bradford represents Christina’s novels, which feature a sassy and stubborn phonetician with anger management issues. When she’s not writing, Christina teaches flash fiction at The Muse Writer’s Center in Norfolk Virginia. Find her on Twitter @CVDalcher or read additional short work at christinadalcher.com.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Second Place

Pain can be inflicted in many ways but sometimes it can be delivered in a somewhat more subtle manner. Our gift to you is the continuing torture of the slow reveal of our winning stories ... but it is an exquisite torture. Should I make you wait any longer? No? Well perhaps just this once I might give in, after all HIM isn't known for his patience either ...

Here are the comments on our Second Place winner from Shakes, the Demon Headmaster himself:

The imagery in the opening paragraph is brilliantly arresting and the final line of that opener tells us so much in just six short words. In a classic flash style, we're then taken sideways to view the devastating outcome of one father's momentary lapse of concentration and fallibility.
The use of language throughout this piece is commendable, especially in the carefully constructed personification of the helter-skelter. 

The story is uncompromising and its author understands the true meaning of 'horror' - there may be some classic tropes at play but they are used to precise effect here. 

In my judging there has been little between third, second and first place - it's all subjective when the writing is this good, but why this story came so close is because its author gave me genuine chills and isn't that why we read the genre? 




And the name of our Second Place winner and author of Ride Over is

... Sian Brighal. Congratulations, Sian. An ebook copy The Infernal Clock will be winging its way to you shortly.

Enjoy her story ...



Ride Over
               
The screams were coming thick and fast; almost as fast as the smoke billowing out like the toxic exhale of some foul demon. The flames writhing inside the tower tinged the gusts a bilious yellow. The thing really did look like some mouth to hell. People were running around it with buckets, but it was too late. The accelerant was doing its job.

He was deaf to them. All he heard were the words that had echoed in his skull for the last eleven years.

Just one more go…Daddy!

He remembers her scampering off, white sandals slapping against the grass, pigtails whipping the air, and that’s the last. He didn’t tell his wife—didn’t tell anyone—that some woman at the fair had held his interest as his daughter had run to the helter-skelter. He’d swear on his life that it was only for a moment, but…isn’t that what they say? The vicious consolation and underhanded accusation.

He’d lingered, staring at the tower’s mouth as though it would spit her out at any moment like a pip that had caught in its teeth, and she’d come skipping over, all giggles. He’d even ran his palms over its fabric skin, whispering prayers, begging it to let her go.

Give her back…for chrissakes! Give her back!

It had her. Somehow he knew she’d climbed up, slid down but not come out. She was in there….stuck somewhere, somehow. She had to be! With his ear pressed up against the cold cloth, he swore he heard her, caught her voice in each snap of rippling fabric and creak of wooden frame.

Please, Daddy! Please, Daddy! Please, Daddy!

Eleven years lost, and he’d had to lie, call himself mad to prove he was cured to get out. But he was out, and he was getting her out now. Just one more thing to do…

Hands grabbed at him, pulling him back, but he was resolute. The smoke stabbed his eyes and wound about his throat; the infernal heat pushed him back. He knew it would fight…resist…keep hold of her. His baking lips cracked into a smile, spewing blood: we burn for our sins.

The fire pierced the helter-skelter’s fabric skin, its many tongues licking the air. In his periphery, burning, screaming shooting stars fell from the slide to earth, but they were harbingers of salvation not doom. Arms raised, skin blistering and blackening from the heat, he stepped inside, and the beast swallowed him whole.


After the inquiry, several members of the investigative team resigned, and one went mad. Three children were tragically burnt in the fire, but thankfully there were no fatalities, save for the arsonist. But, not disclosed to the public, within the ashes, they found delicate charred phalanges, time-smoothed heads of femurs, melted necklaces and watches, twisted metal debris from mobile phones and surgical implants not used since before the Great War, and hundreds of teeth! And in the arsonist’s devoured stumps of charred fingers, there rested a disturbingly pristine white shoe.


Bio:

Sian Brighal was a chemistry teacher who now experiments with writing and drawing and is finding the experience just as wonderful and unpredictable. She lives in Germany with her family, where she bakes and thinks about gardening. She can be found at @sian_ink on Twitter.

Check out her website https://sianinkblog.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Third Place

Welcome back to our Infernal Countdown. The hands crawl across the face of time, the slightest movement, always in one direction, never to go back. And why would you want to go back when we have such stories for you? Stay a while and read our Third Place winner who is ...

Oh, but not yet. First we must hear what our judge Shakes has to say:

"I like the idea that the Helter Skelter is a dwelling here, an abandoned fairground the perfect stomping ground for the mysterious wand maker. There are shades of Doctor Who in our aging magician, including his ‘bigger on the inside’ display room – although his method for longevity is a little more diabolical than the Doctor’s regeneration.

Love is, indeed, an infernal business. I liked the playful twist in the once only spell and the careful description of how the wand always comes to work upon its wielder.

The delicious moment the recipient of Arthur’s affections prevents him from breaking the spell had me grinning from ear to ear.

The story is dotted with nice phrasing and detail and its lighter tone helped to distinguish it from the darker entries.

Well done to the author."


And the name of our Third Place winner and the author of The Wand Maker is ...

... Chris Stanley. Congratulations, Chris.

Enjoy his story.

The Wand Maker

For two hundred years, they’ve been knocking on his door. From Cape Town to Cardiff he’s listened to stories of lecherous bosses and lacklustre wives. His customers all want the same thing, a chance of happiness. But finding or fashioning a suitable wand is a tricky business. It’s why he keeps moving.

“I thought you’d come down the slide,” says the boy at his front door. He has the narrow shoulders and bowl cut of a lonely twelve-year-old. The corner of his schoolbag reads “Arthur” in a mother’s hurried scrawl.

“Why would I do that?” asks the old man. “You never know which way you’re facing and the only way is down.”

He’s lived in the Helter Skelter since the fairground was abandoned. It suits him perfectly. The peeling paintwork and rickety slide make visitors uncomfortable. People see the word “Condemned” and stay away.

But not this boy.

The old man leads Arthur through a short hallway to a storeroom, where the walls are lined with rows of wands, hung by hoops of leather. One spell per wand, one casting per spell. The room is impossibly large given the exterior dimensions of the ride. Between the wands, a grandfather clock ticks backwards. It’s eight in the morning but the clock says half six. Arthur fidgets in the doorway.

“What are you after?” asks the old man.

“There’s a girl.”

The old man rolls his eyes. Love is an infernal business.

“You know the price?”

“One year per wand.”

The old man climbs a stepladder and selects a mahogany “Fairy Finger” gilded with gold-leaf lettering.

“And no refunds.”

He gives the wand to Arthur and a spark of electricity passes between them. The clock hands unwind to half-past seven.

#

The old man follows Arthur at a distance. Wands are impatient things, demanding to be used immediately. As expected, the boy heads straight to school and waits in the playground. The old man remains outside, watching the other children as they arrive. He studies them all, his eyes asking questions of every girl who passes. And then he sees her and knows everything.

Hand shaking, Arthur points the wand and reads the inscription on its shaft. There’s a flash and he doubles over, falling forwards and landing hard on his shoulder. His body contorts as he transforms.

Over the years, the old man’s learned it’s safer to change his customers than the world around them. Breaking the wand breaks the spell, so they can always undo what they’ve done. His careful design means no one ever asks which end of the wand to point.

Arthur pulls himself up using a window ledge and studies his reflection in the glass. His delicate chin and long, blonde hair. His newly acquired breasts. He reaches for the wand to break it but the girl stops him, smiling shyly. She touches his arm and asks if he’s okay.

The old man returns to the Helter Skelter and awaits his next customer.

Bio:

Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren't triplets. In the past year, his stories have won prizes and been published by Raging Aardvark, Retreat West, ZeroFlash, Corvus Review and The Molotov Cocktail, as well as being included in the 2015 and 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthologies. Follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings and check him out at https://whenonlywordsareleft.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Fourth Place

So here we have it, the first of our final placings for our inaugural Infernal Flash Competition and I would like to say, on behalf of my infernal partner, David Shakes and myself, how delighted and humbled we are that in these ever-busy days, people would take the time to write and submit to our contest. Thank you to everyone who entered and if you didn't make the podium this time, then perhaps another. The Clock, after all, never stops ticking.

Note: all identification was stripped from the manuscripts to ensure fair judging.

And now without further ado and amid much procrastination (he really did have a tough time judging, you know), here are the comments from HIM Mr Shakes:



'In 4th place is The Infernal Clock - I am Twitter friends with Jennifer Handorf who produced 'The Borderlands' - the movie reminiscent of the end of this dark tale. The personfication of the ride, its horrific, organic nature is what swung it. I liked the amibiguity coupled with the sense of urgency. My good friend Dom D thought it could be the most atmospheric of the submissions. We both liked the claustrophobia that builds - and the tight narrative. Well done.'


And the name of our Fourth Place and the author of the Infernal Clock is 

... Mark Morris. Congratulations. 

Enjoy his story ...



Infernal Clock


The dark-mannered child took his hand, leading him forward. A series of steps appeared, painted gaily and fashioned from wood. Each of the risers was emblazoned with a word written in a thick black copperplate. ‘Fun!’ proclaimed the first. ‘Enjoy!’ exclaimed the second. The third and the fourth ones were obscured by gloom but Dean knew already they’d be labelled in the same elaborate script.
His companion urged him on, his bare feet shuffling on the first step. His face turned upward. ‘Come,’ he mouthed, the word a silent cloud that hung between them. “Come.” The boy’s hand was icy-cold as it closed onto his own, immediately tugging at it, the child insistent that they move. 
The steps soon began to narrow. They’d only climbed a half a dozen more before the walls drew in closer, the wine-dark canvas cold and damp against their shoulders. The child had surged up and ahead, towing him now, his hand gripping onto his more tightly, his back and shoulders pale and now in line with Dean’s face. His other hand snaked further forward into the dark, gripping onto the spiral of the handrail, its knuckles white as he towed them upward. Dean hesitated, stumbling for a moment, his toe catching against the overhanging lip of one of the treads. The boy looked quickly back, his face a dim white oval.
“Come,” he urged once more. “Come. We must hurry.”
Dean’s feet stuttered as he recovered his balance, his other hand weighted by the slide-sack he was carrying. They were moving at speed now, his toes alternatively scuffling and skipping over the edges of the steps as they raced toward the top. The walls began to quiver, now an infernal ox-blood red, both sides dragging across their bodies as they slid between them. He turned his head about to see back the way they’d been but there was nothing; no steps, no light, just a slick mahogany darkness and a low ululating moan. Their pace increased yet further and he snapped his head back to face the boy, his form now glowing a pale gem-like turquoise.
“No,” Dean said, trying to hook his feet between the steps. “Enough now.”
The child looked back, shaking his head, his clasp becoming vice-like, his small fingerbones grinding sharply against Dean’s. “No,” he replied, looking severe. “There can be no ‘no’. Only forward.”
Then the walls closed in on them and everything went black.

Bio:

Mark Morris is a mature born-again writer who discovered his Muse the second time around. In previous incarnations, he's been a star student, a minor athlete and an obsessive hobbyist but he's lately begun to find a modicum of writing ability and now specialises in writing flash fiction. He's currently working on a handful of novels but is striving to limit this to no more than two or three at once. One of these is a Noir-styled dieselpunk thriller which he hopes will be snapped up by a literary agent next year and then immediately become a worldwide genre bestseller.




Check back next week to discover our Third Place winner.

Monday, 22 May 2017

HorrorAddicts.net Press presents ... Clockwork Wonderland

Today, The Infernal Clock hosts HorrorAddicts.net and their latest release Clockwork Wonderland, an anthology in which I am very lucky to appear. This is not your childhood Wonderland, this is somewhere much darker. Diving down this particular rabbit hole will take you places you never thought imaginable, including the dungeons where my own tale is set; you will find a short extract from my story, Hands of Time, at the end of this post. Want to read more? The book is available at amazon, link below.



Clockwork Wonderland contains stories from authors that see Wonderland as a place of horror where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book you’ll find tales of murderous clockworks, insane creations, serial killers, zombies, and a blood thirsty Jabberclocky. Prepare to see Wonderland as a place where all your worst nightmares come true. You may never look at classic children’s literature the same way again.



Edited by Emerian Rich
Cover by Carmen Masloski
Featuring authors:
Trinity Adler
Ezra Barany
Jaap Boekestein
Dustin Coffman
Stephanie Ellis
Jonathan Fortin
Laurel Anne Hill
N. McGuire
Jeremy Megargee
James Pyne
Michele Roger
H.E. Roulo
Sumiko Saulson
K.L. Wallis
With Foreword by David Watson





Excerpt from

by Stephanie Ellis

The Apprentices stood up, fixing their eyes on the opposite wall, refusing to look at each other. On the long table in front of them, blade and razor, steel and skewer, cleaver and needle shone brightly, like an earth-bound heaven of fallen stars twinkling viciously. The Executioner approached, scanning the tools of his trade and then those who served him. Even down in the gloom of the dungeons, he wore his Death Mask, a leathern covering, roughly stitched with mere gashes for eyes and mouth. His huge frame towered over them.
“Hands,” he barked.
The five young men raised their arms toward him, hands extended over the savage blades that claimed their reflections. The Executioner examined each arm carefully, holding their too-soft flesh between his own heavy leather gloves.
Rab had never seen the man’s hands in the two months he had lived beneath the Castle nor an inch of skin to indicate he was a mortal like them. The Executioner’s hands held his own and he could feel the power and strength that lay within emphasizing how puny, how feeble, he was in comparison. He felt ashamed, a feeling made even worse by the strange tinge visibly creeping across his palms and knuckles, something he attributed to the metal which he had to burnish day and night—a never-ending supply of blood-stained steel.
One look at his handiwork returned a smile to Rab’s face. He enjoyed the ritual cleansing, felt in it a sense of purification. He knew his work was better than the others, their distaste obvious as they scraped off the congealed blood and gore. They did as much as they had to, but no more.
The Executioner stepped back and surveyed his small team. Behind him the fire spat and crackled merrily in the old fireplace. Above it hung the clock, their clock, a clock they avoided looking at if they could help it.
“Tonight, gentlemen,” said the Executioner, “the TimeKeeper will be visiting us.”
“Never heard of him,” muttered one of the apprentices.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” said the Executioner. “Not up there at least.” He jerked his head up, indicating their old world. “He’s a little secret we keep all to ourselves.”
“And why is that?” asked the Apprentice who had just spoken.
The Executioner winked and tapped the side of his nose. “You’ll find out,” he said and continued his inspection, slowly, methodically, silently.
Movement at the far end of the room caught the Apprentices’ attention and turned their thoughts away from the monster before them. All watched in fascination as a single flame drifted through the dimly-lit chamber, closing in on them as a spider to a fly. Hypnotized by the orb’s movement, they failed to notice the creature who carried it in his hand until the man, for want of a better word, stood right in front of them. A solid pulse throbbed beneath his feet, a steady rhythm, ticking and tocking making the air shimmer and sway. Rab could not look away as pendulum eyes held him prisoner.
“Good evening, TimeKeeper,” said the Executioner. “I take it you need new hands?”
“Always.” The TimeKeeper laughed. “The Queen of Hearts wants the clocks changed and the hands moved. Or the clocks moved and the hands changed. I forget which.”
“Forward or back?” asked the Executioner.
“Back again,” said the TimeKeeper. “But the old hands are worn out from this constant tinkering and I need new ones. I heard you had a few to spare.”
“Be my guest,” said the Executioner. They shared a laugh.
At mention of the TimeKeeper’s task, Rab turned his gaze to their clock, noticing for the first time the ivory trelliswork, how it had been crafted from bone. Limbs interwoven in a manner as masterful in its construction as any Carollian carving, perfect slivers of finger interlocked to hold the clock in place. And the hands…they brought back memories of his father’s textbooks with their pen and ink drawings of the human skeleton. He recognized what those hands contorted to track time really were, what he had avoided seeing ever since he’d arrived. Carpal bones and fingers twisted horrifically together, culminated in the deathly point dancing to the TimeKeeper’s tune. How anyone could see beauty in such a monstrosity was beyond him. He averted his eyes, unable to bear the sight of it any longer.
“That is my original clock,” the TimeKeeper said as he came up behind Rab. “The one on which all others are modeled. The Queen is very taken with this design. Now, show me your hands.”
Rab offered his greying hands for inspection. The TimeKeeper said nothing. He moved on and examined the hands of the others.
“We are in agreement?” the TimeKeeper asked.
The Executioner nodded.
“You four,” the TimeKeeper said to Rab’s companions, “swore the apprentice’s oath giving your hands to your Master, for him to do with as he would. And now that time has come. I will take them…” He turned to the Executioner. “You will prepare this young man for the task. No time like the present, eh?”
The ticking rhythm grew loud in Rab’s ears and his mind dulled. He could focus on nothing except the movement of the clock, the march of time. When he roused from his stupor, he was alone with the Executioner.
“Where have they gone?” Rab asked.
“The TimeKeeper will make better use of them than I ever can. You will be taken to them shortly, though. There is a job for you to do.”

To read the full story and more Clock-inspired, Alice Horror, check out Clockwork Wonderland.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Infernal Flash Fiction Competition

The past month has seen The Infernal Clock performing strongly on Amazon, sharing shelf space with some amazing authors, and has had some wonderful reviews. To celebrate this, we are offering you the chance to win a print copy of the book AND have your story published on this site. In addition we will publish those stories placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th on this website over successive weeks in our countdown to announce the winner. The 2nd place runner up will also receive an ebook version of The Infernal Clock.

All we ask is that you use the following photo prompt for your horror story and include the word ‘infernal’.



Maximum word length: 500 words
  

Closing date: 03/06/2017


Announcement Schedule 
17th June 2017: 4th place story published on The Infernal Clock blog
24th June 2017: 3rd place published
1st July 2017:    2nd place published

8th July: Winner published.

 Please send your entries (as a .doc or .docx attachment) to theinfernalclock@gmail.com and include a short 100 word bio together with any twitter or website links in the body of your email.

Judges: Steph Ellis, David Shakes


Good luck, we look forward to reading your entries.

The Infernal Clock Submission Call: CalenDark, The Infernal Almanac

The Devil has claimed the face and hands of time but he also makes his presence felt day in, day out. He takes the days, the months, the sea...